My mother is an American and my father is a Chinese, is there a term for people with two racial backgrounds in English?

Update: Is "halfer" a good word for it? Is it kinda derogatory?

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    "Race" generally groups humans into a very short list of races (roughly 6, but there is disagreement). "Chinese" might be better viewed as an ethnicity or nationality. "American" is a nationality and a culture, but doesn't denote a particular ethnic or racial grouping. – wordsmythe Jul 7 '14 at 18:19
  • Is "halfer" a good word for it? Is it kinda derogatory? – user4457 Jul 11 '14 at 12:03
  • I haven't heard "halfer" before. Obviously, if you said it about yourself, people wouldn't take it as derogatory, but I would advise against saying it about other people. – hunter Oct 31 '14 at 14:40

The term I'm familiar with is 'biracial.'

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    I agree. "Biracial" is the general adjective for someone with parents (or, I suppose, grandparents) of two races. "Multiethnic" might also be a useful term for user4457 to know, since it moves from "race," to a more granular concept of ethnicity, and it can denote more than two ethnicities in one's family, so someone can have a Chinese, a Korean, a Polish and a French grandparent. – wordsmythe Jul 7 '14 at 18:17
  • Great point, wordsmythe. – Obfuskater Jul 7 '14 at 18:20
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    Multiracial is also used. – snailcar Jul 8 '14 at 9:26
  • Is "halfer" a good word for it? Is it kinda derogatory? – user4457 Jul 11 '14 at 12:04
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    That sounds pretty solidly derogatory, @user4457. – wordsmythe Jul 11 '14 at 15:40

Sometimes, if one of the two racial backgrounds goes back many generations (i.e., is considered to be more or less homogenous), we might self-identify as I'm half ~~~~~~. For instance, someone might want to describe themself as half-Chinese or half-Lithuanian. I use the latter for myself, because it is true. Half-American does not work, because American is not a race in this sense. But a lot of people might wish to refer to themself as (for example) half-Irish, half-Greek, half-Italian, half Japanese, half-Cherokee, etc. I am talking about people referring to themselves.

For someone to self-identify as half-something is usually a sign that they value that racial or genetic component of their background. In other words, it is a term that is used positively.

People can also refer to others as half-something, which may or may not be true, and may or may not be intended as a kind statement.

Cautian: We have the term half-breed, which also refers to someone who is considered (rightly or wrongly) to be half something. It is an offensive term, a racial slur, and pretty much no longer used in today's English. But it is encased in our popular culture, largely due to cowboy-and-Indian movies, where you might hear the term half-breed used to describe someone who is half-American Indian and half-something else. In the 1970s television show, Kung Fu, the main character is half-Chinese and half-Caucasian American.


Here we say mixed ethnicity. The term mixed race, although implied, would not be used officially in a multicultural society since it might offend.


You can use the term Eurasian for someone who is half Asian, half European.


The term dual heritage is also used in public services to describe someone with two ethnicities.

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